Big news this morning as silent film icon Charlie Chaplin’s only novel, Footlights, which had lain unpublished for over 60 years, is now available to the public for the first time. Chaplin’s biographer David Robinson pieced together the book from a combination of written notes and typed scripts. It traces (and fleshes out) roughly the same story as his classic 1952 film Limelight, co-starring Claire Bloom and Buster Keaton. Chaplin was being hounded by Hoover and the FBI for ‘un-American’ activities at the time, and not long after the film’s completion he would go into European exile.

In honor of this pleasant surprise, I recommend a viewing of Chaplin’s The Kid (1921), available to watch on FilmOn’s VOD service. Chaplin’s first full-length film, the film was selected in 2011 for preservation in the United States Film Registry by the Library of Congress.

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Starring Chaplin in his already well-known ‘Little Tramp’ guise, the film had been made shortly after the death of his firstborn infant son, perhaps leading to the intense connection displayed with his child co-star, Jackie Coogan. Chaplin was also going through a divorce during production, and had to retire out of the LA area to edit the film clandestinely.

Location shots were done in downtown LA’s Olivera Street, before its conversion into a sightseeing photo-op, and drew on Chaplin’s own impoverished childhood in London. Fans of Oscar-contender American Hustle will appreciate the Little Tramp and Kid’s scheme to make money. Coogan and Chaplin would remain friends for life, although separated by Chaplin’s persecution.

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They would re-unite one last time when Chaplin briefly returned to accept an Honorary Oscar, shortly after Chaplin edited and re-issued the film, with a new musical score, in 1971.

The Kid is available to watch free via FilmOn’s VOD service:
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